What the NBA Can Learn from the NFL's Super Bowl Weekend

Sean Hojnacki@@TheRealHojnackiFeatured ColumnistFebruary 4, 2013

MIAMI, FL - JUNE 21:  LeBron James #6 of the Miami Heat answers questions from the media next to the Larry O'Brien Finals Championship trophy during his post game press conference after they won 121-106 against the Oklahoma City Thunder in Game Five of the 2012 NBA Finals on June 21, 2012 at American Airlines Arena in Miami, Florida. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

Super Bowl XLVII is in the books. It was a thrilling Sunday that turned boring and then dark and then thrilling again. 

At the end of the evening, the Baltimore Ravens emerged victorious.

Congratulations to them on their victory, as well as to the San Francisco 49ers on a great season that ended with a thrilling comeback attempt.

Aside from poor LeBron James—who could not watch the game because the Miami Heat team plane does not have satellite TV or Internet access (per the Sun Sentinel)—many players around the NBA seemed to be fixated on the game, at least based on Twitter.

Kobe Bryant was watching. He noted at the momentum swing that was seemingly precipitated by the 34-minute long power outage at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.

The NBA Finals could use a momentum change of their own. It should be about more than just the two teams involved.

The NFL's grand spectacle, the Super Bowl, is what the NBA should aspire to emulate.

Yes, lights are an important first step to putting on a successful sporting event. That's lesson No. 1. 

But how else can the NBA learn from the Super Bowl?

The NFL has grown the brand of their Super Bowl immensely since the first two contests were unimaginatively dubbed the "AFL-NFL World Championship Game."

From 1969 on, the "Super Bowl" has grown exponentially in national importance, international viewership, media fixation and advertising clout.

During this year's Super Bowl, a 30-second commercial cost $4 million, which set a new record.

And according to the dozen industry execs that Alex Konrad of Forbes spoke to, the "overwhelming consensus" was that "it’s still the best bargain around."

Over 111 million Americans tuned in for last year's Super Bowl (per the International Business Times).

The key aspect of the Super Bowl is that the NFL has transformed it into an event. It's a one-off, highly anticipated sports contest that has developed its own universe both on TV and for those attending in person.

The Super Bowl has its own orbit.

Now if only the NBA could emulate that and slice off a bit of the pie.

There are several unique things about the Super Bowl. First, it's always held at a neutral site, which goes back to the game's inspiration from college football's bowl games.

Due to the nature of basketball, this would not be feasible.

Home-court advantage is central to the dynamic of the NBA's postseason. Having it at a pre-designated NBA arena or even one of the marquee college arenas would be fun, but that raises more problems than would be worthwhile. 

Perhaps only the potential Game 7 of an NBA Finals could be played an a neutral site, but this would again invoke such logistical nightmares that it's not a sensible solution.

So how about fewer games to make it feel like more of a special event? Instead of a seven-game series, they could play a compacted three-game series.

While this might sound crazy, there is precedence for it in major sports.

The UEFA Champions League is widely considered to be soccer's finest club competition.

The annual tournament pits all soccer clubs in Europe against one another through an extensive qualification process, followed by the group stage and then knockout games.

Once in the knockout stage of the tournament, the two clubs that draw one another play one game at home and one away. If the aggregate score is tied after those two games, the club with the most away goals advances.

But the Champions League final is just one game.

It's a winner-takes-all showdown, and the game is so popular that it overtook the Super Bowl in 2009 as the most-watched club sports game in the world (per Goal.com). 

So perhaps there is something to be said about playing fewer playoff games and condensing the series so that they mean more.

But fewer games mean fewer tickets sold and less commercial time to hawk, so it's unlikely that any NBA owner would agree to this (except maybe the Maloofs).

So the only thing that the league can do to make the NBA Finals more like the Super Bowl is clear: Add more pomp and circumstance!

The cities that end up hosting the finals need to embrace the spectacle more. 

The NBA Finals should be an event where people travel to the city just to experience the fun emanating from the occasion.

There should be countless corporate parties flooded with A-list celebs and all sorts of exotic entertainment converging on the city. 

And the halftime shows need to be bigger. This should be a three-song spectacular where all viewers are floored by the performance and the production.

Kevin Durant of the Oklahoma City Thunder tweeted out his amazement at Beyonce's performance during halftime of Super Bowl XLVII on Sunday.

Beyonce was quite excellent, and it was nice to see Destiny's Child back together.

It's just too bad they couldn't have convinced Jay-Z to get in on the action.

There are so many things the NBA could learn from the Super Bowl, but the vast majority of them boil down to this: Make it an event which can be embraced by people who aren't fans of either team participating in the games.

In fact, they should fill up the two weeks of the NBA Finals with so much pomp and circumstance that people who aren't even fans of basketball will be tuning in or traveling down.

After all, that's what the NFL does with its championship game. And it's working.

Now if only we could say that about the lights.


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